On any given day more than 79,000 children in Texas are sexually exploited. A group of concerned Lubbock women have stepped up to help some of them to recover from their traffickers’ abuse. In May, the nonprofit One Voice Home used $450,000 it had raised to purchase property in West Texas that will house and help underage girls mend their lives.
“I came on thinking that this interim stage—I took this role thinking that this interim stage was going to be a lot longer. This transition from just a bank account into, now we have our property, now we’re moving towards operations. And then within the space of a month and a half, it went from nothing to 151 acres and over 20 buildings.”
That’s Laura Pratt, who served as One Voice Home’s executive director for a time and now serves on its board of directors. Much of the money raised to purchase the property came from seven years of proceeds from Running 2 Rescue, an annual event that was a race, a festival, a fundraiser and a way to raise awareness about sex trafficking.
Since 2013, more than 215 cases of sex trafficking have occurred in Lubbock. As many as 25 percent of those are children, with the youngest being 8.
The group’s board is establishing a strategic plan with the goal of having the first four girls move onto the property in between 12 and 18 months.
“Let’s get that one building operational and then look to, well what else do we need? What do we need for the staff? Let’s get the administration headquarters up and running. Let’s get the house for the program director in a state that they can move in and start working on site. So all of that is part of moving into the realm of opening our doors to those first four girls in 12-18 months. But to get there, you need community support, you need a lot of funding. It’s very expensive to offer holistic care,” Pratt explains.
The program at the facility will be faith-based. But Pratt says each of the girls will have latitude to define what that means to them.
“The faith-based aspect of this program is not just designed to remove all choice from the equation. We want to provide and extend the love, the grace, the kindness that has probably been totally devoid in their life,” she says.
These days, volunteers spend time working to get the property ready, including unpacking and shelving boxes containing scores of books and tending to landscaping. And fundraising continues – for operational costs and salaries for those who will eventually live on the property.
If you have an interest in volunteering, call One Voice Home at 806-429-2192 or email email@example.com. Pratt says the group wants to have regular work days to prepare the property properly.
“The hope is that we can have one once a month and we’ll invite people to sign up for them. Because of where the property is located and our desire to keep it confidential and safe for the girls, they will have to sign a confidentiality agreement or a non-disclosure and we have to waive liability because they won’t let us insure the place until it’s operational.”
The group will pursue grants, but the facility must be operational for two years to apply for state monies.
The property’s features include dormitories, an indoor pool, a medical clinic, a fire station, tennis and basketball courts, a rocking climbing wall, a commercial kitchen and a barn.
The group’s goal is to eventually have 48 underage girls live on the property. Pratt says even once the girls complete the program at the property, she wants them to feel like they can always call it their home.
“To me, that’s the ultimate goal, is like, this is not just a home for just 12 months, this is designed to establish a home for years, so that you can always think back on your time at OneVoiceHome and say, ‘yeah that was my family, that was my home.’ And gives them the opportunity to give back as well.”